In a letter to the editor of The Shillong Times dated June 24, 2016, a member of the public addressed what he believed to be a nuisance caused by hawkers. He compared them to cow dung. In comparing the working-class community to cow dung, the author of the letter stripped them of their humanity and, in its place, assigned them bestiality or even worse ―what bestial nature itself rejected. After reading the letter, I thought, “These are not the women I know/knew.” As the great-granddaughter of a woman who sold moonshine/kyiad and the granddaughter of a tea seller (both of whom belonged to the unorganized sector of the Shillong working-class community) I knew differently. The working-class women I knew possessed ethics, morals and they also possessed that most human of attributes, dreams. If mainstream society refused to see them for who and what they are, then I had to do something about it. I had to write. Hence, apart from the obvious sociological implications this essay is also intended to unravel the human attributes of the women whose identities are, more often than not, concealed and made politically “savvy” by their being working-class.
If you have been following the mainstream Shillong media or reading/hearing the influential opinion-makers of the town, you would be right to think that the Hawking and Vending is an illegal activity which needs to be stamped out. But that is not the case. Illegality is a myth.